GPs across the country could be legally prescribing cannabis as early as next year after the Department of Health announced it was to hear people’s view on legalising the drug on prescription.
Sativex, which is the trading name for the drug, is derived from cannabis and will be made legal to MS and palliative care sufferers for pain relief. The drug is already permitted in other EU countries.
Doctor Eamonn McDwyer, who has been a GP in Cavan for 43 years, said that this will come as welcome pain relief to those patients suffering from MS and those in palliative care.
“The illnesses at the moment that medical cannabis used in is multiple sclerosis [MS] and patients in palliative care. According to literature the drug provides great pain release, as well as being physically uplifting,” said Dr McDwyer. “Effectively, by legalising the drug for medical use, it will cause no risk to the public. If people had previously wanted the drug they would have been able to get it and use it anyway.
“The legalisation of medical cannabis should cause no problems, no more than any other legally prescribed drugs like morphine. Drug abuse will take place anyway,” he said.
“It will be better to have the drug as a pain relief on prescription for patients in pain instead of them buying it on the street where they don’t know what it could contain. It will be a huge benefit to those suffering and just like other addictive substances, it will be well controlled for those who actually need it. “I’ve been practising medicine for 43 years and back then the only kind of pain relief available was a Brompton Cocktail - a strong pain killer, which contains a cocktail of heroin and other illegal drugs.
“Legalising the drug, similar to morphine, provides those who are at the end of life a source of relief from the pain.
“It’s heartbreaking, seeing patients suffer in palliative care. Of course, any pain killer is addictive. There is an unbelievable benefit for patients and the difference is that palliative care patients can remain living at home. “It’s a step in the same direction, as medically allowing other drugs, but also a step in the right in my opinion,” he said.
One example of the demand for pain-relief from patients dealing with life-threatening illnesses is that before 11am on the day of the interview, Dr McDwyer had already written four prescriptions for some of his patients in palliative care.
Even anti-drugs charities are welcoming the announcement, and believe it will not lead to the legalisation of the drug.
Tim Murphy, project co-ordinator for Cavan Drug Awareness, said: “As long as it’s well monitored and controlled there will be no danger to the public. The pain relief to be used is a chemical form of cannabis and has been successfully used in other countries as a source of pain management. It’s not the same as the street drug cannabis. There is also no need for people to worry about the legalisation of the drug through a back-door system, it will be like similar drugs used in medicine and will need to be prescribed by a doctor,” he said.
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